US-Israeli delegation secretly visits Sudan

A joint US-Israeli delegation made a secret visit to Sudan on Wednesday to negotiate a possible announcement to “end the combative state” between countries that could be released in the next few days.

big picture: President Trump announced earlier this week that he was ready to remove Sudan from the list of sponsors of US state terrorism, when Sudan pays $ 335 million in compensation for American terrorism victims.

  • Trump’s announcement was part of a broader deal that also includes a Sudanese normalization move toward Israel.

state of play: The delegation, which included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior advisers to Trump advisers, flew directly from Tel Aviv to Khartoum in a chartered Maltese private jet and returned to Israel the same day.

  • It met with General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s sovereignty council.
  • According to sources involved with the issue, officials on the plane included Netanyahu’s acting director general Ronen Pertz and his envoy to the Arab world. US officials included Aryeh Lightstone, Senior Advisor to Gulf and North Africa General Director General Miguel Correa and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at the National Security Council.

What they are saying Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that the State Department has begun the process of lifting Sudan’s designation as the state sponsor of terror.

  • Pompeo said he believes that there is a legal basis for doing so – and there will be heavy bipartisan consensus in Congress for such a move.
  • “We are working diligently with Sudan that it is the best decision to normalize relations with Israel to make this case in the best interest of the Sudanese government. We hope they do. We hope Is that they will do it quickly. ”She said.

Why it matters: The normalization deal is also important for the White House because – unlike Israel’s recent deals with the UAE and Bahrain – for years there was a belligerent state between Israel and Sudan.

  • Sudan is not designated as an enemy state in Israeli law, but for decades there has been intense hostility and military confrontation between countries. They do not have diplomatic relations and, according to Sudanese law, Sudanese citizens are not allowed to travel to Israel and can be heavily sanctioned to do so.

Background: Sudan hosted the Hamas headquarters in Khartoum for years and made military and political alliances with Iran and Hezbollah. The Iranians used Sudan as a base for arms smuggling in the Gaza Strip and established a huge factory for long-range rockets there.

  • Between 2008 and 2014, a series of airstrikes took place against a Gaza-bound weapons convoy in Sudan, an Iranian arms ship in Port Sudan and the Iranian missile factory in Khartoum. The government of Sudan blamed Israel, but the Israeli government never claimed responsibility for the attacks.
  • Since 2014, Sudan’s relationship with Iran has cooled dramatically as it began to become closer to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It was also involved in quiet negotiations with Israel, which led to Israel lobbying the US and European countries to provide financial assistance to Sudan.
  • After Sudan’s revolution last year, which overthrew dictator Omar al-Bashir, negotiations with Israel became more important as part of the country’s transitional government’s effort to warm relations with the Trump administration. Last February, there was a breakthrough when al-Burhan met with Netanyahu in Uganda.

What will happen next: Sources said talks between the three countries are expected to continue on Thursday with the aim of organizing a phone call between Trump, Netanyahu, al-Burhan and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamadok in the matter.

  • Sources said a joint statement, which is to be released after the call, will be emphasized that Sudan and Israel officially decided to “end the combative state” and begin the process of normalization, the sources said.

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